I love pizza. I have always maintained that if I was stranded on an island with only one choice of food, it would be pizza. However, it would not be store bought pizza. The stuff that comes in a cardboard box usually ends up tasting more like the box and less like a pizza. I must admit a lot of the pizzerias in town don’t live up to making a good pizza either. But I’m very fussy and If I pay for something, then I gain the right to critique it.
So what makes a good pizza? Ingredients, ingredients and ingredients! Whether you prefer thick or thin crust, the pizza crust should be able to stand on its own. It should not be overpowered by yeast. It should be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The sauce should be thick and rich tasting. It should not be watery and end up making your crust soggy. The sauce should also have some flavour to it. The home cook does not always have time to make a from-scratch sauce, so choose a good quality thick sauce on the grocer’s shelf.
The toppings must follow the same rule. Try three types of cheese instead of just mozzarella, which has texture but very little taste. There is good pepperoni and sausage out there. It may be a little more expensive but the difference in taste is worth it. Try sautéing your onions and mushrooms before putting them on the pizza and you will end up with a moist result on the pizza. Who can resist putting bacon on their pizza? It should be half cooked to release most of the fat and moisture and put on the top of the pizza to finish the cooking.
Pizza Dough (double crust recipe made in the bread machine – save half in the freezer for the next pizza night)
5 cups flour (can substitute 2 cups whole wheat flour)
2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups water
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dried herbs ( optional)
Add all the ingredients into the bread machine as recommended by the manufacturer. Conversely, add the dry ingredients into a large bowl, stir to mix and add in the water. Stir to combine. You can also use a stand mixer for this part. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic until doubled in size. Punch down the dough, cut in half, freezing one portion for later use. Press and stretch the dough out to your desired shape and finish the pizza with sauce and toppings. Bake in a hot oven, 425º on a pizza stone or on a cookie sheet.
Quick no cook tomato sauce:
1 28 oz can of Italian tomatoes, preferably with basil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil and/or pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Drain the tomatoes in a colander over a bowl. Lightly squeeze the tomatoes to release more of their juices. Reserve the juices for another use. Place the tomatoes in a blender or Cuisinart along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth.